People who go into combat suffer significant hearing loss. But they won’t wear earplugs.

In combat, being unable to hear what’s going on around you can get you dead. So electronics engineers are working on making smart earplugs that muffle noises that can harm you, but let you hear what you need to hear. The 99% Invisible podcast has more: Combat Hearing Loss

[Doctor Eric Fallon, former chief audiologist at Walter Reed Medical Center and now on the staff at 3M,] believes the solution to all of these problems is a device called TCAPS (Tactical Communication and Protective Systems). Designed as either internal earbuds or external earmuffs, TCAPS protect a person’s hearing while still allowing them to hear the world around them through built-in environmental microphones. In some cases, these devices are integrated with radio capability.

TCAPS work thanks to sophisticated technology that detects high-decibel noises then lowers their intensity; they also pick up and amplify soft background noises. The result is a more balanced experience of sound, providing protection for the wearer while facilitating situational awareness.

But TCAPS isn’t battle-ready yet.

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